“Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one.”
Many have said this tale before, how their year is like Orwell’s infamous future, but that doesn’t mean I cannot join that roster of writers. This is my fanciful attempt at bridging how many aspects of 1984 are eerily similar to the present with some quotes from the book interspersed in-between; or my longest blabbering yet.
Much of this may seem far-fetched and dismal but come on, if it’s about 1984 it has got to be that way.
The world is seen through the sensibilities of Winston Smith, the only one in the entire land of Oceania it seems who possesses a mind that helplessly cannot forego logic. This is his Achilles heel. “Stupidity was as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.”
1. Newspeak: the new words formed by a systematic reduction of words from Oldspeak everyday by the Party. Thinkcrime, doublethink, goodwise, speedful, etc. This way there are fewer choices to express your thoughts outside and even to yourself.
Today: The new shorthand. I have heard of teachers and college professors who complain not just of poor capitalization but that they read things like “2 b or nt 2 b, dat is da qstn” in exam papers. I kid you not.
2. Memory Loss: Winston often wonders, “Was he, then, alone in the possession of a memory?” Weekly chocolate rations reduce from 30gms to 20gms but it is announced that your rations have increased to 20gms and everyone around him has a smile. In the book Eurasia is the current enemy nation-continent but was actually Oceania’s ally four years ago and the current ally East-asia was its enemy. The roles keep changing as need be.
“But if there was hope, it lay in the proles. You had to cling on to that. When you put in words it sounded reasonable: it was when you looked at the human beings passing you on the pavement that it became an act of faith.”
Today: how our enemy got to be that way and how many hands were involved is not mentioned as many times as simply as this is the enemy. The history of the matter is not taken into account. Be it countries we are at war with or how banks wield so much control over Congress.
3. Information control: the Party destroys all records that do not suite it in the Records department or alters the old ones. There are no books or papers that the Party has not touched.
Today: This may seem most unlikely since information is the one thing that is most liberalized and on nearly everyone’s fingertips. Today it is easier than it has ever been. But who is paying for it? Someone has to and it is getting harder every year for the handful of reliable media organizations to stay that way because viewers prefer not to pay. Wikipedia is the sixth most visited website right now and even I’m tired of seeing their contribution drive which has been going on for over a month, and yet for example if everyone who viewed it from say…India… in a single day gave $2 then their drive would end that very day.
Another example: the big protest on Net Neutrality. Something so basic as keeping the internet equal for everyone was being opposed by giants like Don’t-Be-Evil Google.
“Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.”
4. Two Minutes Hate: it is two minutes of video footage of the enemy compulsorily shown to everyone. The people are driven into a frenzy of hate. It is a venting of hatred, almost celebratory. The cause could be the acts of the Party itself but this is a better channel to release it. Winston knows this but even he gets caught up in it. He begins to shout and curse at the people on the screen, then his hate shifts internally towards the young woman standing next to him, then even towards himself. It seems comical because the enemy is almost caricature. The wicked soldiers are stern, expressionless and ugly with their gun pointing at you and marching forward. Now flashes the face of Emanuel Goldstein, the master bad guy, on top of all the evil Eurasian soldiers. You know it is frenzy because Emanuel’s face morphs into the face of a sheep and everyone is still screaming!
“The horrible thing about Two Minutes of Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in… A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill… and yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.”
Today: 24hrs news networks leave the job of analysis for Casper The Friendly Ghost and instead go with feeds and snippets instead of actual news. Everything is laid out in B&W and one-sided numbers are crunched; the casualties on the other side are not A-priority.
“If he (citizen of Oceania) were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he has been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken, and the fear, hatred & self-righteousness on which his morale depends might evaporate.”
5. Telescreen: The oblong metallic and reflective object that is placed throughout the city and in every room. It can hear and see your every movement and dole out party messages.
Today: CCTV at all junctions is common but mandatory fingerprint scans on new IDs. It is also easier to check-up on someone mainly because people post a lot of embarrassing info. themselves but also when folks like AT&T tap the internet usage of its subscribers due to govt. pressure.
“If you kept the small rules, you could break the big ones.”
This post isn’t directing to one country or another. Every country has and does resort to these things. If you can draw any more parallels between the book and today then please do let me know.
The book concludes with a note that in 1984 only academics could write in Newspeak but by the year 2050 it will have superseded Oldspeak completely.
“He though with a kind of astonishment of the biological uselessness of pain and fear, the treachery of the human body which always freezes into inertia at exactly the moment when a special effort is needed.” “It struck him that in moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy, but always against one’s own body.”
“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”